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Canadian Resale Sneaker and Streetwear Retailer ONE OF A KIND (Oak) Plans Store Expansion into New Markets: Interview

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ONE OF A KIND (Oak), a resale boutique for footwear, opened its doors just prior to the pandemic, had one of its stores in downtown Ottawa disrupted because of the recent trucker convoy protest, but is poised now to grow the brand in both Canada and the US.

“Myself and my partner founded it and basically we’re a resale store that focuses on getting all the exclusive sneakers and streetwear for our clients,” said Franco Benalia, one of the brand’s founders. “So we curate 100 per cent of the selection available in stores and online and we base the inventory off of the hottest trends and what people are asking for, what people really want.

“In the fashion industry, every day there’s something new, a new sneaker, a new set of clothes. We just focus on being that one-stop shop for getting anything exclusive at your fingertips. If you wanted to purchase a highly sought after sneaker from lets say a store like Footlocker you would have to line up for hours, sometimes even days. Whereas at One of a Kind you can come in whenever and purchase the sneaker free of hassle, of course you’ll pay a premium, but at the convenience of having all these rare sneakers curated for you. This is very appealing to our clientele.”

The brand has two locations on Montreal area streetfronts – in Westmount and in Laval – and a location just down the street from CF Rideau Centre in Ottawa. 

OAK Shop Laval (Image: OAK One of a Kind)

The first store in Montreal opened February 2020 and then a few weeks later it had to shut down because of COVID.

“We’re not in malls. We actually took the opposite route of most of our competitors. We’re on streetfronts. We’ve focused on marketing to generate foot traffic and we also wanted to create some type of event out of coming and shopping with us. An experience more or less,” said Benalia.

“With COVID and everything, that year for us was actually amazing. It opened the doors to a lot more opportunities. When our store closed we didn’t know what to do, so we focused on opening an ecommerce and that ecommerce allowed us to shift our efforts for the time being which allowed us to grow a huge online presence and based on that, now we have one of the most successful ecommerces in our industry in Canada. We also have clients spanning all across Canada and the USA.”

“As we focused on our online we decided to scale our retail footprint. We noticed that because our products are high end and are accompanied by high end prices, as well as they’re being many fake products on the market, we had to create a showroom experience. Our brick and mortar stores serve as showrooms where clients can come in to see and feel the product, while gaining brand trust and notoriety. Growing our retail footprint has been a huge success to our online as well.”

OAK Shop Ottawa (Image: OAK One of a Kind)

Benalia said the company has expansion plans and it is in the middle of a few deals right now. “There will be a minimum of two new point of sales by the end of the year and possibly even four. This will increase our brand presence across North America,” he said.

Benalia owns the business with Andrew Rusnac, who is from Calgary.

“It’s a funny story how we met to start the brand. Since I was 16, I was kind of doing this without a storefront. Building my own clientele online. I would line up at every single sneaker release to collect pairs and I would also go to sneaker conventions in Toronto, Vancouver, all over Canada,” he said.

“We did a few deals online and then I met my partner as he was finishing school. He wanted to do something different. We both had a crazy passion for sneakers and realized we had a great opportunity to create a renowned brand. He took the next plane ticket to Montreal and stayed the week. In this time we plotted the brand concept and created a proper business plan. Next thing you know he moved to Montreal and we launched our company.”

“We are scaling at a rapid rate and we are beefing up our back end team. You’re going to really see the brand explode within this year.”

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior National Business Journalist with Retail Insider in addition to working on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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